Friday, August 03, 2001

Tristate GOP reps support compromise

By Derrick DePledge
Enquirer Washington Bureau

        WASHINGTON — House Republicans from the Tristate supported a White House compromise on patients' rights Thursday.

        On a 218-213 roll call by which the House voted to allow limited lawsuits against HMOs, a provision supported by President Bush, only Democrats Ted Strickland, D-Ohio, and Baron Hill, D-Ind., voted against.

        Rep. Ken Lucas, D-Ky., was one of only three Democrats to join with the Republican majority in favor of limiting lawsuits.

        Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, a Republican leader on patients' rights, said he has some concerns that patient lawsuits could increase health-care costs, but was pleased that the House would finally agree on a package after years of negotiations.

        “I do think this is a big victory for patients,” Mr. Boehner said. “It strikes a good balance between protecting patients and holding health plans accountable.”

        Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, also supported the compromise despite worries about patient lawsuits.

        Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who was among the lawmakers in discussions with the White House, said the bill would give patients new rights without encouraging costly lawsuits that could force health-care providers to reduce services or drop patients.

        “It will not allow unnecessary and frivolous lawsuits,” he said. “It will not risk dramatically increasing the cost of health-care insurance and thereby risking the number of people who can be insured ... And it will not take valuable dollars out of the health-care system and put them in the legal system.”

        Mr. Strickland, D-Ohio, claimed the House fell to pressure from the health-insurance industry to weaken the bill and offset the Senate version. He noted that the American Medical Association opposed the White House compromise because it could threaten existing state protections.

        “We are dealing with life-and-death matters today,” he said of giving patients the opportunity to challenge HMO decisions. “We need the right for (patients) to go to court and to get what they rightly deserve.”


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